Whole house ventilation systems are a great way to improve indoor air quality and upgrade the performance of heating and air conditioning systems. Although this technology isn’t new, its importance for a healthy home has increased as energy efficient construction technologies have developed. Today’s homes are constructed to be virtually air-tight, in order to improve HVAC efficiency and reduce energy use and costs. Unfortunately an airtight house is not optimal for the health of its occupants. Fresh air is critical indoors but when heating or air conditioning is running, fresh air can reduce comfort levels and make equipment work harder. Heat and energy recovery ventilation systems offer an affordable and easy way to solve this problem.
What is a Heat Recovery Ventilator?
A heat recovery ventilator, also known as a heat exchanger, is an important component of an energy efficient building. Improved insulation and other measures that make a building airtight help reduce energy consumption and keep power bills down. Unfortunately, they also prevent the induction of fresh air, something that all buildings require to maintain indoor air quality. Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) ensure an adequate flow of fresh air without compromising the HVAC system’s efficient operation. HRVs are able to reclaim a large portion of the energy already used to condition the air before exhausting the stale air outside, then use that energy to temper the fresh air.
Saving Money with a Residential Energy Recovery Ventilator
Energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) work in a manner similar to HRVs but with the added consideration of removing humidity from the incoming fresh air, transferring it instead to the stale air being vented out. ERVs improve both heating and cooling efficiency, maintain indoor humidity levels at optimum values and allow HVAC systems to be scaled down without losing effectiveness. Although ERVs are not appropriate for use in hot, humid climates, they are very effective in those regions where winters are extreme. Under optimum operation, ERVs can recover between 70 and 80 percent of the energy from exhaust air, transferring that energy to the fresh supply air.
Can You Benefit from Whole Home Ventilation?
If your home was constructed in the last twenty years, or if you have made improvements meant to reduce air loss (energy efficient windows or upgraded weatherproofing for example), the chances are very good that a whole home ventilation, heat recovery or energy recovery system will be highly beneficial. Likewise if you have noticed a poor quality of indoor air. This may be evidenced by dry eyes or mouth, frequent respiratory infections or breathing problems. If you are considering a new HVAC system, experts also advise adding a ventilation and energy recovery system as a component of the new equipment. Both ERVs and HRVs will reduce energy costs, especially in climates with temperature extremes during the winter or summer.
Even if an HRV or ERV system is not appropriate for your home, consider adding an exhaust ventilation system, supply ventilation system or a balanced ventilation system. A licensed HVAC contractor in your area can describe the costs and benefits of each type of system and help you evaluate whether whole house ventilation is cost-effective for your home, health and lifestyle.